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Plant spring flowering bulbs.  It is getting late, in most parts of Canada, to plant daffodils and narcissus as they need about 6 weeks free of ground frost to put down roots before winter. Tulips, crocus and hyacinths, on the other hand, are very happy planted in the ground at this time of year.  Grandpa Cullen often planted his tulips the day before Christmas and enjoyed a wonderful show the next spring.  This may be late in the bulb-planting season, but you will get some great deals at your local retailer, who is blowing bulbs out of the store before they get stuck with them over the winter.

Christmas wrap.  The first gifts that you should wrap for the Christmas season are your evergreens.   We wrap two layers of burlap around upright evergreens, especially our junipers and cedars (which are very susceptible to salt burn).  One layer prevents wind damage, the other snow and ice.  The yew hedge gets wrapped with a double layered piece of burlap, supported by 2" x 2" stakes hammered into the ground.  This is a gift to yourself. 

Lawn mower.  We put our power mower to bed by cleaning the cutting deck and spraying it with lubricating oil.  We empty the gas from the tank as it can go gummy in the carburetor next spring when we start the machine: after removing gas from the tank, let the motor run until it runs out of gas.  Remove the connection from the spark plug and wipe the exterior down with an oiled cloth. 

Fertilize the lawn.  What? With the leaves off the trees and a cold bite in the air, this is not what you will feel like doing.  We don't always feel like walking the dog either.  But it must be done.  

Feeding your lawn now, builds up natural sugars at the root zone which will help keep your lawn healthy and green next spring.  You will minimize snow mould, white powdery mildew and brown spot during the thaw by fertilizing this time of year.  Truth is, this is the most useful application you will make all year.  We use a 12-0-18 formula, to ensure the best performance come spring. 

spiral guard

Hungry vermin.  Rabbits, mice, rats and other vermin love to chow down on the bark of young fruit trees.  Well, they don't LOVE it, they do this out of desperation and hunger.  

The solution is simple and inexpensive.  Wrap a spiral shaped plastic protector around each fruit tree in your yard this weekend.  Do this for the first 5 or 6 years of its life.  After that, the bark is so tough, even a sharp-toothed rabbit will have lost interest in it.

Water.  You will soon shut off the outdoor faucets to prevent freezing, but before you do, be sure that established plants in your yard are well watered.  We have had reasonable amounts of rain this fall, but the evergreens and shrubs under the eve and soffit of your home are protected from most rain.  Be sure to soak all permanent plants deeply before the freeze up.  Truth is, being frozen in ice is better insulation than dry soil.  Who knew?

Rake leaves onto your garden.  Off your lawn, on to your garden.  Or into your compost pile.  Either way, they will rot down over the winter and provide needed nourishment to all plants that grow.  Do not put them to the curb.

Turn your attention indoors. There are a lot of outdoor annuals which are worth adding to your indoor plant collection for the winter. 

By now, you should have brought in frost-tender plants such as spider plants or tropical hibiscus. Make sure they are free from insects and diseases that could spread to your other houseplants, and treat or repot if necessary.

There is little more to do out of doors after you have completed these tasks.  Other than to gloat over the fact that you have done it all and deserve a rest through our long Canadian winter.



 Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. You can sign up for his free monthly newsletter and find his weekly podcast & blog at Watch Mark on CTV Canada AM every Thursday at 8:45 am (EST). Mark's latest book The Canadian Garden Primer, An Organic Approach (5010-205), is available at Home Hardware.


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